CONCERNING OTHER THINGS THE PLANTERS SHOULD
AND OTHER NECESSARY THINGS
I wish to say a few words concerning the different kinds of trees, which could be used for building and for ship's timber and also to list the lime, stone and brick we saw in that country. If I did not mention them, their existence might be doubted, or some malicious persons might say they are not found in Virginia.
Oaks grow fair, straight, and tall and make as good timber as exists. There are a great number of them, and in some places they are very large.
Walnut trees. As I have said before, there are very many walnuts; we saw some growing above fourscore feet, straight and without a bough. They make excellent timber four or five fathoms long.
Fir trees, suitable for making ships' masts, grow very large and tall. Rakiock is a kind of sweet wood that the inhabitants in our vicinity use for their boats and canoes. They make their boats simply by the use of fire, stone hatchets, and shells for shaping them. Some of their canoes, made of a single tree, are large enough to carry twenty men and much baggage besides. The timber is thick, tall, straight, soft, and light, yet it is tough enough, I think, to be suitable also for the masts of ships.
Cedar is a sweet wood suitable for ceilings, chests, boxes, bedsteads, lutes, virginals, and many other things. Some of our company, who explored places where I did not go, affirm that cypress is to be found there. This wood has great value, many excellent uses, and is held in high estimation.
Maple and witch hazel. The natives make their bows of this wood. Holly is needed in making birdlime.
Willow may be used for making weirs and traps for catching fish in the English manner. The inhabitants use only reeds, which, since they are strong and flexible, serve the purpose well.
Beech and ash are good for cask hoops, plow work, and many other things.
Ascopo. This tree is very much like laurel, its bark spicy and hot in taste, similar to the tree which Monardus describes as cassia lignea of the West Indies.
Many other strange trees can be found there, whose names I know only in the Virginian language. I do not think it necessary to describe them in detail now, for I have named enough for timber and other uses. But I have no doubt that some of the woods I have not mentioned can be used to good advantage.
Stone, brick, and lime. Near the seacoast where we dwelt we could not find any stones save a few small pebbles about four miles away. All the stones had to be brought from the mainland. On some of our trips we saw several hard, ragged stones, great pebbles, and a kind of grey stone like marble, which the inhabitants used for their wood-cutting hatchets. When we inquired, we learned that a little farther inland there was an abundance of all kinds of stone. The natives are ignorant of quarries, and they do not keep a supply of stone. Every household has only one or two to crack nuts, grind shells, and whet copper, and also keeps a few in reserve for hatchets. They do no digging, except for their graves, which are about three feet deep. It is therefore not surprising that they have no quarries or any limestone, though both may exist near by, unknown to them. In the meantime, until a good supply is discovered in some convenient place, you, the future planters, could use brick for building. This could be easily made, as there is plenty of good clay in many places. Lime could be used for the same purpose, made of oyster or some other shells and burned as they do in the Isles of Thanet, Sheppey, and other parts of England. This kind of lime is known to be as good as any other. As for oyster shells-one can find them with the greatest ease and in great abundance in many places, particularly in one shallow sound along the coast. Here, for many miles along the shore and for three miles inland, the ground is covered with them.
A gentleman of our company found a great vein of hard, ragged stones a hundred and twenty miles from our fort, near the water in the side of a hill. I thought it good to tell you of this.
It remains to speak a word or two about the native inhabitants, their nature and manners, leaving detailed discourse about them until a later, more convenient time. Now it is only necessary to reassure you that they are not to be feared. I do not think they will trouble our living there or obstruct our farming. I rather believe that they will have cause both to fear and to love us.
The clothing of the natives consists of loose deerskin mantles and aprons of the same fur which they wear around their waists; they wear nothing else. In stature they differ one from another, much as we do in England. They have no edged tools or weapons of iron or steel to attack us with, nor do they know how to make them. The only weapons they possess are bows made of witch hazel, arrows made of reeds, and flat-edged wooden truncheons, which are about a yard long. For defense they wear armour made of sticks wickered together with thread, and they carry shields made of bark.
Their towns are small and few, especially near the seacoast, where a village may contain but ten or twelve houses-some perhaps as many as twenty. The largest town we saw had thirty houses. In many cases the villages are walled with stakes covered with the bark of trees or with poles set close together.
The houses are built of small poles attached at the top to make them round in shape, much like the arbors in our English gardens. The poles are covered from top to bottom either with bark or with mats woven of long rushes. The dwellings are usually twice as long as they are wide; sometimes they are only twelve or sixteen yards long, but we have seen them as much as twenty-four yards in length.
In one part of the country a Weroans, or chief, may govern a single town, but in other parts the number of towns under one chief may vary to two, three, six, and even to eight or more. The greatest Weroans we met governed eighteen towns, and he could muster seven or eight hundred warriors. The language of each chief's territory differs from that of the others, and the farther apart they are, the greater the differences.
Their manner of making war against each other is by a surprise attack, either in the dawn of day or by moonlight, by ambush, or by some such subtle trick. Set battles are very rare. When they do take place, it is always in the forests, where the natives may defend themselves by leaping behind a tree after they have shot their arrows.
If we should ever fight the inhabitants, the results can easily be imagined. We have great advantages over them, for we have disciplined soldiers, strange weapons, devices of all sorts, and especially we have large and small ordnance. So far we found their best defense against us was to turn on their heels and run away.
Compared with us, the natives are poor. They lack skill and judgment in using the materials we have and esteem trifles above things of greater value. But if we consider that they lack our means, they are certainly very ingenious. Although they do not possess any of our tools, or crafts, or sciences, or art, yet in their own way they show excellent sense. In time they will find that our kinds of knowledge and crafts accomplish everything with more speed and perfection than do theirs. Therefore, when they realize this, they will most probably desire our friendship and love, and, respecting our achievements, they will try to please and obey us. Whereby, if we govern them well, they will in a short time become civilized and embrace the true religion.
They have already a religion of their own, which is far from the truth, yet for that reason there is hope that it may sooner and more easily be reformed.
They believe in many gods, which they call Mantoac. These gods are of different kinds and degrees. Their chief god has existed from all eternity. They affirm that when he created the world, he first made the other principal gods, in order to use them in the creation and government to follow. Then he made the sun, the moon, and the stars. The petty gods act as instruments of the more important ones. The natives say that the waters of the world were made first and that out of these all creatures, both visible and invisible, were formed.
As to the creation of mankind, they think that the woman came first. She conceived and brought forth children fathered by one of the gods, and in this way the natives had their beginning. But how many ages or years have passed since then, they do not know, for they have no writing or any means of keeping records of past time, only the tradition, passed on from father to son.
They believe that all the gods have human shapes; therefore they represent them by images in the form of men and call the images Kewasowok. A single god is called Kewas. These images are set up in temples which they call Machicomuck. Here the natives worship, pray, sing, and make frequent offerings to the gods. In some of these temples we saw only one Kewas, but others had two or three. Most of the natives think that the images themselves are the gods.
The natives believe also in the immortality of the soul. They say that after this life the soul departs from the body, and, according to its works in life, it is either carried to heaven, where the gods live, or else to a great pit or hole. In heaven it enjoys perpetual bliss and happiness, but in the pit, which is situated at the farthest part of their world toward the sunset, it burns continually; this place they call Popogusso.
In confirmation of this belief, they told me stories about two persons who had lately died and revived again. One occasion was but a few years before we came to Virginia and concerned a wicked man who died and was buried. The day after the burial the natives saw that the earth of his grave had begun to move, and took him up again. The man made a declaration, saying that his soul had been about to enter into Popogusso, when one of the gods had saved him and given him leave to return to earth to teach his friends what they should do to avoid that terrible place of torment.
The other event happened during the year we were in Virginia in a town only about threescore miles away. Again a dead man had been buried and had returned to the earth. He related that his soul had travelled far along a wide road, on both sides of which grew the most delicate and pleasant trees, bearing rare and excellent fruits of such fine qualities that he could scarcely describe them. At length he came to some beautiful houses, where he met his dead father. The father instructed him to go back to earth and to tell his friends that he was enjoying the pleasures of heaven, and after he had done so to return.
Whether or not the Weroans and priests use subtle devices with the common people, the belief in heaven and the fiery pit makes the simple folk give strict obedience to their governors and behave with great care, so that they may avoid torment after death and enjoy bliss. Evil-doers have to pay for their crimes in this world, nevertheless. Thievery, whoremongering, and other wicked acts are punished with fines, beatings, or even with death, according to the seriousness of the offense.
This sums up their religion. I learnt of it from some of their priests with whom I became friendly. They are not fully convinced of its truth, for in conversing with us they began to doubt their own traditions and stories. They expressed great admiration for our religion, and ihany showed an earnest desire to learn more than we, with our small knowledge of their language, were able to tell them about it.
They marvelled at all that we had, such as mathematical instruments, mariner's compasses, the loadstone, which attracted iron, a perspective glass3, in which they saw many strange sights, burning glasses4, fireworks, guns, books, and spring clocks that seemed to go by themselves. All these things were beyond their comprehension, just as reading and writing were utterly strange to them. They could not understand how they were constructed and how they worked and thought all these things must have been made by the gods or that the gods must have presented them and taught us how to make them. Therefore they began to admire us and thought it wise to learn the meaning of the true God and the true religion. Seeing our abilities and possessions, they believed more readily in our words.
Many times and in every town I came to I described the contents of the Bible as often as I could. I told the natives that there was set forth the only true GOD and His mighty works, with the true doctrine of salvation through Christ. I related the miracles and the chief points of religion to them, as many as I thought fit and could recount at the time. And although I told them that the book itself had no great virtue, but only the doctrine it contained, still they wished to touch, embrace, and kiss it, and to bold it to their breasts and heads and stroke their whole bodies with it. Thus did they show their hungry desire for its knowledge.
Wingina, the chief with whom we lived, and many of his people joined us often at our prayers. He called upon us many times, both in his village and in other villages where he accompanied us, to pray and to sing Psalms, hoping thereby to benefit from the effects we also expected from those means.
On two different occasions this Weroans was so seriously ill that he seemed likely to die. As he lay languishing, he doubted that his own priests could help him; therefore he sent for us and asked us to pray to our God that he might either live or dwell in bliss with Him after death. And not only he but also many other natives asked us to pray for them.
Another time their corn began to wither because of an unusual drought. They feared that this had come to pass because they had displeased us in some way. A few of them came to us asking that we should pray to our English God that he should preserve their corn, and they promised that when it was ripe they would share the harvest with us. Whenever they suffered from some sickness, loss, accident, or other misfortune, they believed that this came to pass because they had offended or displeased us.
Before I come to the end of my narrative I want to mention one other rare and strange occurrence which moved the inhabitants of the whole country to a wonderful admiration for us. When trickery was practiced against us in any town, we were careful to leave it unpunished, because we wanted to win the friendship of the natives through gentleness. But strangely it happened that within a few days of our departure the people began to die very fast. In some towns twenty people died, in some forty, in some sixty, and in one sixscore; this was a large portion of the inhabitants. And the strange thing was that this occurred only in towns where we had been and where they had done some mischief against us, and it happened always after we had left. The disease with which they were stricken was so strange a one that they did not know anything about it or how to cure it. Even their elders could not remember the like ever having happened before. After this disease had struck in four or five places, some of our native friends, especially Chief Wingina, were persuaded that it was we who brought it about, helped by our God. They thought that through Him we were able to slay anyone at any place and without the use of weapons.
From that time on, whenever they heard that any of their enemies had abused us on our journeys and that we had not punished them, they begged us to let our God bring about the death of these enemies. This they alleged would be to our credit and profit, as well as to theirs, and they hoped we would grant their request because of the friendship we professed for them. We explained that such entreaties were ungodly and that our God would not be ruled by such prayers and requests from men; rather, all things are done according to His pleasure and as He ordains. We said that we ought to pray to Him, on the contrary, to show ourselves His true servants and ask that these enemies might know His truth and serve Him in righteousness, so that they could live together with us. And we told them that everything would be done in accordance with the divine will and pleasure of God, as He ordained to be best in His wisdom.
It happened that shortly after this the disease struck their enemies just as they had desired. They thought we had brought it about, disguising our intentions from them. They thanked us profoundly for fulfilling their wish even though we had not promised to do so.
Because of this marvelous accident all the natives throughout the country began to have a wonderful opinion of us, and they were not sure whether to consider us gods or men. Their wonderment increased when they saw that not one of our number became ill during their sickness, nor did any of us die. They also noted that we had no women with us, nor did we care for any of theirs. Some of them were of the opinion that we were not born of woman and were therefore not mortal but were men of a past generation who had risen again to immortality.
They prophesied that more of our generation would yet come to this country to kill them and to take away their homes. They imagined that these men who were to arrive they shot invisible bullets into the victims who died in their villages, after us were already in the air, invisible and without bodies, and that inflicting this punishment at our instigation because they loved us.
And as their medicine men could not cure the strange disease, they tried to excuse their ignorance by shamefully encouraging the simple people to believe that the death was caused by invisible bullets. To prove it they sucked strings of blood out of the sick bodies and said these were the strings to which the bullets were attached.
Yet some of the natives did not believe in the invisible bullets. They thought that we shot our enemies from a distance, killing anyone who offended us, no matter how far away he was. Still others said it was the work of God for our sakes, and we ourselves had reason to agree with them, no matter what other causes there might be. Astrologers believed that the reason of these strange happenings might be the eclipse of the sun which we saw during our outward voyage, or it might be caused by a comet which appeared a few days before the sickness began. But I do not myself think that these outward causes brought about these special accidents. There must have been other reasons, on which I will not speculate at present.
Thus, I have given the opinions of the native inhabitants in detail to show you that there is good hope that they may be brought to embrace the truth through discreet handling and wise government and consequently will come to honor, obey, fear, and love us. Although towards the end of the year some of our men were too harsh with them and killed a few of their number for offenses which might easily have been forgiven, still the natives thought the punishment just and did not change their friendly attitude toward us. I do not believe that they are likely to change their general good opinion of us, and if we are careful at all, they need not be feared. Nevertheless, we must hope for the best and try to do our best, taking care to remove the causes for any discontent among them.
I hope I have related enough about the country so that those who have been indifferent to it will like it, even if they do not know any more than I have mentioned. Without doubt there is much still to be discovered, as to both the commodities and the soil itself.
Everything I have spoken of was found not far from the seacoast where we lived. Sometimes we made journeys farther into the mainland, and there we found the soil richer, the trees taller, the ground firmer, and the topsoil deeper. We saw there more and larger fields and finer grass, as good as any in England. In some places the ground was high, rocky, and hilly, fruits grew plentifully, beasts lived in greater abundance, the country was more thickly populated, the towns and houses larger, and the communities better ruled.
Why, then, may we not expect even more and greater plenty from the inland parts? The Spaniards found this to be the case when they discovered the mainland of the West Indies. I am sure that the mainland of this country, Virginia, extending in some directions many hundreds of leagues, will yield many excellent commodities which we have not yet seen. We have certain knowledge that the country is vast-and this is not only from the tales of the inhabitants-although no Christian ruler has any trade or possessions there.
From the nature of the climate we gather that the land is similar to Japan, China, Persia, Jerusalem, the Islands of Cyprus and Candy, the southern parts of Greece, Italy, and Spain, and other famous countries. Not to be tedious, I leave to your own consideration what hopes this gives us.
The air is much warmer there in all seasons than it is in England, yet it is always temperate, never so violently hot as near the tropics. As to the wholesomeness of the climate, I need say only that we lived entirely on the food and water of the country for all but twenty days.
The foods were at first very strange to us and might have been expected to change our body temperatures and to bring about grievous and dangerous diseases, yet this was not so. Nor did we have our own means of catching beasts, fish, and fowl, and we had to depend upon native devices. Therefore we could not quickly and easily procure these foods in sufficient quantities or choice as would have satisfied and contented us. We also suffered for lack of clothing. Furthermore, in all our travels, even in winter, we lived in the open and slept on the ground. Yet despite all these discomforts, out of the hundred and eight men of our company only four died during the entire year of our stay. These four men died toward the end of the year, and none because of privation and hardship. They had all been sickly when we left England, and the wonder was that they ventured to travel and lived as long as they did.
I hope there no longer remains any reason for disliking the Virginia project. The air is temperate and wholesome there, the soil is fertile and yields the commodities I have listed, and the voyage over the ocean has been so many times performed that we now know it can be done three times a year in any season. Moreover, Sir Walter Raleigh has been liberal in granting large tracts of land there. The least he has given to any man has been five hundred acres, besides many other aids.
Those travelling to Virginia to live and plant there need carry only provisions for the first year, as the last expedition did. Then, with reasonable diligence and care, they can easily supply themselves with plenty of excellent food thereafter. More English cattle should be transported; likewise our varieties of fruits, roots, and herbs may be planted there. Some of them have already been sown and have grown well. And in a short time the planters may raise the commodities I have described. These will enrich themselves and those who trade with them.
This is all the fruits of our labors that I have thought necessary to tell you at the present. As to more concerning the nature and manners of the inhabitants of Virginia, the number and particularities of the voyages made thither, the undertakings of the men employed there and in the project by Sir Walter Raleigh, this matter I shall publish later.
Many of the men of our company are worthy to be remembered: the first discoverers of the country; Sir Richard Grenville, our General at that time; Ralph Lane, his successor and our Governor; and others who worked under their government. Besides these, the captains of our vessels and the masters of the supply ships should be mentioned, as well as the present Governor and Assistants. I have a discourse ready, written in the manner of a chronicle, dealing with all these and many other persons and occurrences, and when the time is convenient it will be published.5 Thus, referring my discourse to your favorable reception, awaiting the good success of the project from Him who is the acknowledged Author and Governor, not only of this but of all things else, I take my leave of you this month of February, 1588.
1 Henry VIII's shilling.
2 According to an old medical theory man was supposedly composed of four humors: blood, phlegm, choler, and melancholy; an excess of any one of the was thought to cause disease.
3 Probably a spyglass.
4 Magnifying glasses.
5 It was never published. Hariot's manuscript has not yet been found.
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Last updated: April 14, 2015